The Need of Internet

I don’t need the Internet anymore.

Now there are a couple things in this sentence you could confront me on, first, need – who needs the Internet? But also anymore – so I did need it then? And what changed?

I’m reading a book for my Media and Society class right now called The Digital Invasion: How Technology is Shaping You and Your Relationships and it’s sort of freaking me out a tad but I think I’m also learning lots. It talks about Internet addiction and how it affects our brains and how we function and how it changes our relationships (for better and for worse, it’s not a doomsday book, they acknowledge that there are benefits!) but it’s making me consider how much I use the Internet and social media and why.

I began using the Internet more and more starting from around age seventeen. A friend introduced me to the vlogger (video-blogger) side of Youtube and within a few months I was vlogging myself. At this time I was in grade twelve and slowly giving into minor depression as I grew increasingly afraid of my unknown future and saw my friends all drifting into the great unknown. I felt that I was losing my friends, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, didn’t like my part time job at a grocery store post-grad (I would “entertain” myself by seeing how far into a shift I could get without talking to someone. I clearly wasn’t a cashier!) and wasn’t pushing into God and building my faith thus allowing that to drift away too. I was lonely.

And the Internet, oh the Internet! The Internet helped me find friends, find friends fast and who had common interests and fun hobbies. I had Facebook, and now Youtube, next was Twitter and Tumblr, more and more ways to connect with my new friends. Now I’m not bashing this because it actually served a purpose in where I was at because as I somewhat dissolved into “living in” the Internet, it also helped bring me back out. I went to a convention in California, meeting friends I’d only previously known online. I’ve since gone on a second trip to DisneyWorld with them. I began organizing meet ups in Winnipeg a couple times a year for other people who were fans of some of the same Youtubers as I was.

"Nerdfighter" meet-up 2012

“Winnipeg Nerdfighter” meet-up 2012

"Nerdfighter" meet-up 2013

“Winnipeg Nerdfighter” meet-up 2013

The Internet sucked me in, yes. I became too reliant on it, yes. But it also helped me grow, a lot. I planned my portion of two trips out of the country and then travelled there alone. I organized meet-ups with people I’d never met before and spent time getting to know them. As I found solace online I began to gain more confidence in my real life outside of the Internet. I made friends with coworkers, I reconnected with high school friends, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. As I gained a few subscribers on Youtube I began to value my voice and think about what I was saying more and through vlogging I actually developed an interest and some practical skill in video making, an aspect of what I hope my future career will involve.

Lately the Internet hasn’t been very fulfilling though. It’s no longer serving the purpose it once did and I think perhaps I’ve outgrown it. It’s not that I don’t value the friendships I made while regularly vlogging or even regularly watching Youtube videos – I do, very much, I would consider many of them to now be friends, but I no longer solely need the Internet to feel that I am connecting with people and being heard. I begin to find it tiresome, Internet connections cannot interact the same way as people in real life. I have friends and hobbies and goals and a life that extends past the limitations of my laptop and my wifi. I can appreciate the ability to stay connected using social media and the like, but I prefer to see friends in person and actually go out and to things and build relationships in that sense. And that’s a big change for me. There was a time when I would Facebook message you instead of trying to get together in person. Now, well… now I’ll do both 😉

I suppose over the last five years I’ve been able to mature and get to know myself better. I’ve experienced life online, and it’s fun for a time and serves its purpose, but I’ve discovered it’s crucially important to maintain a solid foundation in the real world. To be able connect with people in person is something that cannot be replaced and it is only through the challenges and bumps that we face along the road that we can grow, and those are rarely found within the safe walls we build up for ourselves online. Online is a place to hide from challenges and bumps, however, in the sage words of The Sound of Music‘s Reverend Mother, “These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.”

-B

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A Nerdfighter Gathering

Today was the third Winnipeg Nerdfighter gathering. If you don’t know what a nerdfighter is, here is a video explaining it by the Vlogbrothers (who are kind of the reason the nerdfighters are a thing!)

Or the quick version: Nerdfighters are a “fan base” for the online-video-making-brother-duo Hank and John Green of the Vlogbrothers and they fight the powers of world-suck to promote the powers of awesome. Basically nerdfighters don’t fight nerds, they are nerds “fighting” for nerds.

Since about November 2010 very soon after I was first shown a vlogbrother video I have been a “nerdfighter” and a year later I organized Winnipeg’s first Nerdfighter gathering in which local “nerdfighters” met up at The Forks and hung out and chatted and just basically made friends with people who have like-interests.

So anyway, today was the third Gathering I’ve organized for all us Winnipeg Nerdfighters and like always, I tend to arrive about twenty minutes early to find a spot and sit there with one of John Green’s books (remember, one of the Vlogbrothers, he’s an author) to identify myself to people. So today I got my copy of The Fault in Our Stars (because the cover is nice and bright and it’s a FANTASTIC book!) and I headed to where we’d arranged to meet at the Forks and it was kind of drizzly weather today so I was hoping there was a sheltered spot somewhere and I heard bagpipes…

Apparently there was this Highland Dance competition thing going on today that I was unaware of so naturally, all the sheltered spots were taken and it was much busier than usual. I was feeling a bit nervous because, well, I always do. I always get this irrational fear that no one is going to show up and I’ll be this loser person all by myself at the Forks (because there’s never anything to do by yourself at The Forks right…?) and everyone will know I’m all alone and no showed up to my thing and it’s just really sad. I mean there are over 120 people on our facebook page, yet every time I’m all I’M THE ONLY ONE!!! except I have my constant. A friend of mine, Emily, who actually introduced me to the Vlogbrother’s videos in the first place always comes too (being a nerdfighter…) but this week she hadn’t been feeling well so when I texted her this morning she said she wasn’t going to be able to make it. *cue fear, panic, flee or flee instinct, etc*
(yes the flee or flee is on purpose, I know it’s fight or flight!)

So today I’m watching these adorable small children Highland dance to calm my nerves when one of the girls that I knew from our past gatherings arrived! Yay, a familiar face! Soon a few more of had us gathered and though today was a smaller turnout than the other two gathering have been, the seven of us had fun!

We had mini donuts, we browsed a toy store for about an hour, we looked through all the stuffed toy germs that are things toy stores sell now… (Don’t know what I mean?) and we went to this diner-like place and had fries and imported sodas. The whole time we were of course discussing and analyzing things like Doctor Who, Arrested Development, the Avengers, etc, while wearing many fandom-related articles of clothing. In fact, our Doctor Who related clothing led to the guy working at one of the shops we went in chatting with us for like twenty minutes about Doctor Who and the new companion and the 50th Anniversary Special coming up soon etc… It was great!

I always love nerdfighter gatherings because it finally feels like somewhere where I don’t have to worry about people thinking I’m weird because I get so into “nerdy” things. I mean, I’m not one to really worry what people think about me in general but when you’re a fan of things that aren’t “mainstream” you always feel a little out of place. At a gathering, you don’t get that. you can make references or dumb jokes or admit that you absolutely love watching childrens’ cartoons, who cares that you’re not “the right age” and everyone else either agrees or at the very least doesn’t find it odd at all! It’s fun to meet people that have a similar outtake on life to yourself, especially when we know for sure we all have at least one thing in common, we’re fans of John and Hank’s work, we’re nerdfighters, so we can start a day as strangers and end a day as friends with much less bother than if we were actually meeting a real proper stranger.

IMG_1685

A Nerdfighter Gathering at The Forks. June 2013

Hopefully we’ll be able to have another gathering soon! They’re so much fun!

Talk to you tomorrow!
-B